Family-friendly Snow Season Adventures
It’s true that kids are bad for some things: sleep, spontaneity, and sanity (sometimes). But they’re also great at making you slow down and appreciate the small things, like the magic of a snowy December day. Even though wrestling a toddler into a snowsuit and boots can be a formidable challenge, there’s nothing like experiencing the beauty of a white winter through the eyes of a child. The last two years, I’ve been mostly home with an infant, then a barely-walking baby. We got outside, sure, but excursions were limited to short hikes and walks in the neighborhood.
Now that our son Parker is two, I’m looking forward to a winter filled with seasonal fun. There’s no guarantee he’ll love everything, but as anyone in Utah knows, if it’s going to be cold you might as well embrace it. Here are five activities I hope to enjoy with my toddler that are great for kids of all ages:
1. Exploring the Midway Ice Castles
Although I pride myself in taking advantage of all sorts of different local attractions since I moved to Utah six years ago, the Ice Castles have eluded me. Maybe it’s for the best, since I think attending with a child is the best way to go. I can only imagine the look on Parker’s face when we pull into the parking lot and he gets his first look at the glowing frozen features.
Two other perks? He can easily explore without us hauling around our stroller or backpack, and kids under four get in free! Typically open only for a short stretch during winter months so visit Ice Castles to find out when and schedule your visit. Be sure to bundle up and wear sturdy footwear to avoid an untimely early departure.
2. Visiting Local Ski Resorts
Babies and skiing don’t mix, it’s true. But now that Parker is a bit older, we decided to spring for an Ikon Pass and take advantage of the Greatest Snow on Earth. While we’ll do the bulk of our skiing during the week while he’s at school, we plan to introduce Parker to Solitude and Brighton Resort on some sunny weekends.
Will he try out a pair of tiny skis? Potentially. Will he stand on the mini snowboard, complete with a tow rope, that we’ve been eying? Possibly. Will he wear a helmet either way? Absolutely. Let’s be real, probably most of our time will be spent in the lodge or near the bottom of the bunny hill. But getting out together is a start, and we hope with time that Parker will latch on to a winter sport, so we can all shred together.
The best news of all: Brighton lets kids 10 and under ski free. If you decide to venture elsewhere, the Epic SchoolKids Utah pass gives kids Kindergarten-5th grade five free days of riding or skiing at Park City, and Ski Utah offers a passport full of free ski days for 5th and 6th graders. Alta’s Ski After 3 program is great for kids not ready for full days; it’s just $12 for beginner lift access from 3:00-4:30 p.m. Many of Utah’s resorts also start providing lessons once your little ripper turns three!
3. Riding the Heber Valley North Pole Express
Everything about this experience seems perfect for families with smaller children. Trains, hot cocoa, chocolate chip cookies, music and even Santa Claus combine for a magical holiday experience. The 90-minute train ride travels to the “North Pole” and back until December 23—with both regular and first class tickets available. The above amenities are included in a train ticket, and prices start at $5 for toddlers two and under in the regular class. Snag your tickets here.
4. Sledding the Local Spots
Parker’s one and only sled experience last winter began on a powdery hill at Liberty Park. We were afraid to let him get too much momentum, so he motored slowly down the slope a handful of times before he was ready to call it quits. This year, we’ll probably upgrade our sled from the flimsy plastic saucer to a sturdier, multi-person toboggan. Sledding is great because it’s free and can be done on almost any hill. We’ll definitely be returning to Liberty Park, but you can also head to Sugar House Park, Lindsey Gardens in the Avenues, or up Big Cottonwood Canyon near Donut Falls trailhead.
5. Snowshoeing the Mountain Trails
Hiking with kids can be tricky. They’re often too big or squirmy to ride in a pack for long, but their little legs can’t handle long distances. Fortunately Parker will still ride in our hiking pack for short stretches, so I’m planning to take him on a couple snowshoe expeditions this winter. Older children can definitely handle their own snowshoes, and trails are plentiful throughout the Wasatch Front. We like to venture on the flattish section of road just past the seasonal gate up Millcreek Canyon. Nearby Bowman Fork is another excellent option, as long as you don’t mind an uphill workout at the start. And with enough snow, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is a convenient option close to town. Once we both tire of walking, I pull out a warm drink for both of us to enjoy. Regardless of where you adventure this winter, be prepared for some unscripted explorations, toddler style.